What are the areas in your life that you fear most intensely? Do you fear you will be a failure as a spouse? As a parent? As an employee? As a friend?
Maybe you fear that you will fail at being a good Christian.
I wonder if that last one touched a nerve in you like it does in me. I think it affects all of us because we know that we are sinners and that our hearts still pull us into places we don’t want to be. We struggle to get through the day feeling like we did faith “right” and we focus intently on our own missteps. I have heard several people say that their biggest fear was that they were going to slip back into the life they used to live before they were Christians and that they wouldn’t be able to recover. We are all naturally sinners and the battle of the flesh is terrifically difficult to win. It’s no wonder that we can get to a place where we feel like we aren’t ever going to get it right. The more I convinced myself I was a “bad Christian,” the more likely I was to accept my bad behavior, defending it because it lined up with what I thought of myself. More than that, I sought to maintain this image I had by wallowing in the ugliness instead of asking the Lord to help me make godly choices.
What do you believe about being a Christian? Do you think that if you don’t keep every commandment of God, you are a failure? Well, I hope not, because you aren’t ever going to have peace if that’s your definition. I’m speaking from experience here, not from a fancy textbook, and I can tell you this: You will never “succeed” if your expectation is that you can completely overcome sin. So many of us live in fear of failing God because we see Him as perched at the edge of heaven waiting for us to make a bad choice so He can “get us.” We think we are always one step away from getting banned from His presence and instead of claiming the power we have in Him to resist sin and grow in godliness, we put our heads in the ground and beg Him to give us another chance.
Have you ever worried that maybe you were running out of chances?
I’m not going to give you some trite quote about this because anything I say will pale in comparison to the truth, which is that God loves and forgives us because once we have trusted in Christ for salvation, ultimately He does not see our sin when He looks at us. He sees Jesus’ perfection.
Is that hard for you to comprehend? Well then. You’re in good company.What I want to encourage you to do is to try to change the way you think of “failing” God. First of all, if you are a believer in Christ, there is nothing you can do to separate yourself from Him (Romans 8:38). You will continue to sin but you don’t have to believe you are one big epic flop. Instead of spending your time lamenting your errors, pray about why those patterns of sin are present. Seek the counsel of those who have been there and ask them for advice. Tell the Lord every day that you need His help to serve Him wholeheartedly, and be disciplined in spending time in the Word. As you focus on the Bible, knowing Him more through its pages and understanding yourself more through its promises, you will more and more have the power to resist temptation.
After you have repented and committed your sin to the Lord, don’t allow the enemy to tell you that you need to keep going back to it in your mind, because the more you dwell on it, the more likely you will repeat it. You will start to define yourself by your poor decisions instead of your great Redeemer, and it is far too easy to fall into old habits as the helplessness sets in. Instead, asyou begin to set a pattern of repentance and submission to Him, you will see Him glorify Himself and redeem your sin.
I pray that as you work through your own fears of “failing” in your relationship with God, you will know that every person in the pew beside you (regardless of what they say) has felt the same fear. I believe it is one of Satan’s most powerful tools, because if he can convince us that we are too bad to be good, we might just stop trying. Instead, look your sin in the face, repent to God, allow His Spirit to restore you to a place of peace, and begin on the path of godly choices in that area.
In each day the Lord gives us, let us become consumed with the obedient pursuit instead of the perceived victory. Let us become exhausted as we seek the face of a God who delights in giving us power through our weaknesses. Let us reevaluate failure in light of the gracious God who calls us in the same breath He called Moses and Gideon.
Adapted from What Women Fear, by Angie Smith
Copyright © 2011 by Angie Smith, published by B&H Publishing Group, used with permission, all rights reserved.